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Religion, controversy in pop music, and songs - Blasphemy, Like a prayer & Losing my religion

Updated on May 7, 2015
Madonna in her "Like a Prayer" video
Madonna in her "Like a Prayer" video

Many have said that religion and prayer are an important part in keeping families together. Hence the saying "those that pray together, stay together." But do you really need religion as part of your family and relationships to be connected? Musicians have also questioned religion and written songs based on their experience and viewpoints.

Let's explore some controversial religious messages that four popular artists have pioneered - Madonna, R.E.M., Joan Osbourne, and Depeche Mode.

Please leave your interpretations and commentary on the meaning of these songs, and how music and religion have impacted your life, below.

Madonna - "Like A Prayer" 1989

In 1989, Madonna released her fourth album, Like a Prayer. The video for the song "Like a Prayer" was very controversial for its time. Madonna kissed a black man (who is either a saint or Jesus), dances seductively with burning crosses in the background, cuts herself with a knife, and witnesses a rape. A white man had attempted to rape a woman - and an innocent black man - who had attempted to save the woman, was arrested.

This video is controversial commentary on race and religion. The video draws a parallel between Jesus suffering on the cross, and a black man suffering by being wrongly accused as well.

Madonna makes a bold statement and the video was met with protest from many religious groups.

Madonna - "Like A Prayer" 1989

R.E.M. - "Losing My Religion" 1991

Update: On September 21, 2011, REM announced the end of their 30 year run as a band. We will miss you REM.

Possibly one of the best songs by R.E.M. of all time, Losing My Religion hit the charts in 1991.

The song reflects in losing religion, God, and faith. People have commented that this song describes a feeling when you have lost control over your life, and trying to seek seeking love and truth.

R.E.M. "Losing My Religion" 1991

Joan Osbourne - "One of Us" 1996

The "What would God look like song."

In January 1996, Joan Osborne's song "One of Us" hit the Billboard Hot 100 number 4 positions. This song is very beautiful, and brings religion into music be questioning God's presence on Earth.

Joan ponders whether of not God is one of us, just a stranger on a bus, in night and day ... is God among us? She asks, what would God look like if he had a face? You cannot help question if God is physically present and around us everyday.

Joan Osbourne - "One of Us" 1996

Depeche Mode - "Blasphemous Rumours" 1984

Depeche Mode - "Blasphemous Rumours" 1984

In 1984, Depeche Mode's video brought the issue of blasphemy to light. The song depicts reflects God in a negative way, as sung in the chorus:

"I don't want to start any blasphemous rumors

but I think that God's got a sick sense of humour,

and when I die, I expect to find Him laughing."

Considered very offensive to some, the song tells a story of a 16 year old girl's suicide attempt and a 18 year old girl hit by a car.

Take Aways

You may be able to relate to the religions connotations of these songs, you may think they are foolish messages. Regardless of your religious preferences, God gives some people faith, and faith teaches respect and understanding. Whether you have strong religious beliefs, are an atheist, or believe that God is here with us all, it is important to be a good person and be positive.

You do not have to be "religious" to be spiritual, happy, content, and be a positive influence in the lives of others.


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    • MarloByDesign profile image

      MarloByDesign 6 years ago from United States

      REMlistener, do you mean "I believe that "Losing My Religion" is NOT focused on religion but rather other aspects of society." As in focused on losing faith or confidence in government or people?

    • profile image

      REMlistener 6 years ago

      I believe that "Losing My Religion" is focused on religion but rather other aspects of society. It uses religion as a vehicle for other purposes.

    • MarloByDesign profile image

      MarloByDesign 6 years ago from United States

      mtsi1098, thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your insightful. Yes, I completely agree with you.

    • profile image

      mtsi1098 6 years ago

      the first time I head "One of Us" by Joan I can still remember because it was the first song that made me think about the possibility...great job here...thanks

    • MarloByDesign profile image

      MarloByDesign 7 years ago from United States

      music lover, thank you for your comments. I am glad my Hub was useful for your "religious symbolism in american popular music" paper. Rock and rap music which is secular but has such imagery...I will need to think about that. I am open to ideas to add to this Hub.

    • profile image

      music lover 7 years ago

      hello!! i'm workin on a paper on religious symbolism in american popular music, esp rock music or maybe rap excluding ouright christian rock n gospel. just came across ur blog. it was very helpful. I was wonderin if you could list some songs n ideas esp under rock n rap which is secular but has such imagery. wd b gr8 help!!!

    • profile image

      Pop music 7 years ago

      I just love Joan - and almost all what she sings, and One of Us is no exception :)

    • Britneys Fan Club profile image

      Britneys Fan Club 9 years ago

      Hi there Yeah music makes my world go round its what i need every day to lift up my mood and soul :))

      played the guitar many years

      like your hub its very informativ

      pls come by visit my music hub as well

      greetz c ya soon ;)

    • MarloByDesign profile image

      MarloByDesign 9 years ago from United States

      Misha, thanks for your comment. Joan is such a great singer, and I am glad you appreciate her too!

    • Misha profile image

      Misha 9 years ago from DC Area

      I just love Joan - and almost all what she sings, and One of Us is no exception :)

    • MarloByDesign profile image

      MarloByDesign 9 years ago from United States

      Zsuzsy Bee, thank you so much for your comment! I actually like all 4 of these songs, artists, and videos, and I could relate to their messages at one time or another.


    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Great HUB on what can be a sensitive subject.

      regards Zsuzsy